A Short History of Italian Painting

By Alice Van Vechten Brown; William Rankin | Go to book overview
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FORENCE TO 1400

I
CIMABUE1 c. 1240-c. 1301

WHILE, as we have seen, the traditional school in Siena held to a mediæval habit into the 15th century, Cimabue presaged at the end of the mediæval period the different course of Florentine development.

The renewal of the Roman school as illustrated in Cavallini was brilliant, but both it and Sienese art lacked the essential factor of a radical appeal to nature. This factor had its first conscious expression in the Florentine republic, under the emotional influence of the Franciscan revival. With the secure establishment in Dante of Italian as a literary language, there was an end to the dominance of Latin. With the Pisan Sculptors, and with Cimabue and Giotto (about 1300), visual art may be said to have begun to speak in the vernacular. While the exact watershed between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance may be hard to place, there is no real difficulty in determining in which direction the main streams of art now flow.

Up to the latter half of the 13th century the Florentine school showed no superiority over other indigenous local schools. All alike are inferior in craftsmanship to the Roman school, and lack its traditional basis of large and gracious feeling. They even drop below the dignity and technical skill of the inert Byzantine tradition. Suddenly, at about the time of the advent of Cavallini, a new and personal force appeared in Tuscany. This showed

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1
Consult Aubert and Fry. The earliest sources for Cimabue are Dante, Purg., canto xi. 1, 94; the Commentary to Dante quoted by Vasari; Filippo Villani, Christofero Landini, Ghiberti, Commentario; Albertini's Memorials, containing the first list of Cimabue works; the Book of Antonio Billi; and Vasari. His name was Cenni di Pepo (of the Pepo family); see documents published by Fontana, Due Documenti riguardenti Cimabue ( Pisa, 1878). For possible relation to mosaics, Baptistery, Florence, see p. 7, n. 3. See M. Wackernagel, Th.-B. Lex.

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